As any entrepreneur, CEO, or executive director can attest, branding is a critical to your organization’s health and well-being. Branding is the song your business sings out into the world and, with any luck, the song the world sings back. Whether building a brand from the ground up or redefining a well-loved (but increasingly inaccurate) brand, finding and capturing the right message is what branding is all about. 

To put it even more succinctly: a brand is the essence of your business.

Both vacation rental powerhouse, Airbnb, and the community-centered Y are examples of notable rebranding efforts that successfully reflect members’ impressions and their interactions with the companies. A well-researched, tested, and executed brand tells clients not only what a business does, but it also has the power to create lasting impressions of the kinds of service they can expect, the level of quality they can enjoy, and what it is that makes a business or organization stand out from a crowded and competitive field.

While a logo is but just one aspect of a successful brand, for most businesses and organizations, logo development is where it all begins. Once an organization has a logo that captures the commercial and emotional essence of their work, then businesses can begin building a solid brand foundation and strategy through a well-designed website, complementary printed collateral and advertisements, aligned content, well-chosen communication channels, and more.

Airbnb: Belonging in a Logo

In 2007, Airbnb visionaries opened their home to the world’s first airbnb visitors. As the company grew (exponentially, it seems), they needed a logo that captured both the ethos of the company and the welcoming spirit of the airbnb community. Their intense collaboration with DesignStudios gave birth to the Bélo, an icon of belonging.

In July, 2014, co-founder Brian wrote, “Belonging has always been a fundamental driver of humankind. So to represent that feeling, we’ve created a symbol for us as a community. It’s an iconic mark for our windows, our doors, and our shared values. It’s a symbol that, like us, can belong wherever it happens to be. It’s a symbol for people who want to try a new tea they’ve never heard of from a village they couldn’t find on the map. It’s a symbol for going where the locals go—the cafe that doesn’t bother with a menu, the dance club hidden down a long alleyway, the art galleries that don’t show up in the guidebooks. It’s a symbol for people who want to welcome into their home new experiences, new cultures, and new conversations.”

The YMCA Becomes the Y

While splashy rebranding efforts like Airbnb’s often garner the most press, nonprofit organizations have to work just as hard to keep their brand relevant in an ever-changing world.

The Old YMCA Logo

In 2010, the venerable nonprofit, founded as the Young Men’s Christian Association in 1844, underwent a massive branding change to become, simply, the Y.

The New York Times quoted the organization’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer saying, “It’s a way of being warmer, more genuine, more welcoming, when you call yourself what everyone else calls you.”

The new Y Logo

In a press release, the Y noted, “The YMCA has the unique capacity to address many of the challenges facing the nation today. Through its new brand strategy and framework, the nonprofit will extend its reach into communities to nurture the potential of youth and teens, improve the nation’s health and well-being and provide opportunities to support neighbors.”

The impressive rebranding effort was the result of more than two years research, analysis, and development. The future-forward logo reflects the diversity and aspirational nature of the organization and unveiled their intention to focus on three core areas: youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.

A strong brand is the embodiment of those intangible links and impressions that exists in the minds of your customers. Every interaction, connection, and contact is an extension of your business and absolutely must point back to your brand and support your branding strategies. The stronger and more integrated your brand is, the more passionate, connected, and committed your customer will feel about your products and services.